Painter quits in row over artist

Bridget Cormack The Australian November 27, 2012 12:00AM


Gallery owner Jan Manton with Covet by Lucas Grogan. Aboriginal artist Ryan Presley has left the Brisbane gallery after Grogan was asked to join its stable of artists. Picture: Lyndon Mechielsen Source: The Australian

ABORIGINAL artist Ryan Presley has quit his Brisbane gallery in disgust after it decided to represent a non-indigenous artist who draws on indigenous art in his work.

Presley, 25, left Jan Manton Art in Brisbane’s Spring Hill last month after learning Melbourne artist Lucas Grogan had been invited to join the company’s stable of artists.

The artist objected to Grogan’s work, which in the past has referenced Aboriginal art-making styles such as cross-hatching.

Gallery director Jan Manton said she had signed Grogan because his work was relevant in contemporary art and a hit with collectors.

“I’m running a business and I show artists,” she told The Australian . “I listen to artists all the time, but artists don’t tell me how to run my business.”

She had several conversations with Presley this year regarding his concerns about Grogan, whom she signed in January.

“I offered Presley to have a show with Grogan as a way of bridging that gap (between the cultures),” she said. “I thought that having a discussion or collaborative show would be a way of bridging or unpacking some of the issues that were around Grogan’s work.”

Presley declined the invitation. Instead, he quit immediately after his latest exhibition The Good Earth, having been with the gallery for about 18 months.

Presley was born in Alice Springs and is best known for his watercolours of Australian banknotes, in which the heads are replaced with indigenous leaders.

Now working independently, he refused to comment yesterday because he felt it would create further public interest in Grogan’s work.

Grogan, based in Melbourne, was embroiled in controversy in 2008 when anonymous objections led to his drawings, which evoke indigenous art, being barred from the Sydney Art Fair.

His first show at Jan Manton Art starts on Saturday but there will be no formal opening for the exhibition.

The End of the World includes a series of nine intricately patterned ink and acrylic works that explore ideas around the apocalypse.

Grogan, 28, said he was heading in a new direction with his art by drawing on various cultures from around the world and placing more emphasis on textiles. The works in his new exhibition do not draw on Aboriginal styles or iconography but show a new direction in his art.

“In 2008 the response to my work was that I was being too transgressive and I took that on board and have not pursued that style of work,” he said.


Yes, in Australia today you can be terrorized and have your art censored for “offending” Aborigines with using a criss-cross pattern, putting three dots together, or even if any anonymous caller starts making threats of violence to artists and gallery owners.

After decades of being terrorised by fake Aborigines – white people who masquerade as indigenous people – Australians have had enough. The problems of Aboriginal violence and fake Aborigines rorting the system kept escalating for almost 50 years, with no-one daring to tackle those politically sensitive issues. Until Andrew Bolt case and the censorship of the Wanjina Watchers in the Whispering Stone sculpture by Benedikt Osvath by the corrupt Blue Mountains City Council and Aboriginal industry and  in 2010, these problems were, time after time, swept under the carpet. Until now!


Lucas Grogan: Terrorised for using criss-cross style